Do you know how some years it feels like there’s a seismic shift in your universe? So many beginnings and endings. One of those years for Mim and me, after our road trip, was 1947.
First off, Stalin’s Red Army was reshaping Eastern Europe. I remember that Winston Churchill put his finger on it in ’46 when he said that an “iron curtain” had descended, dividing the democracies from the communist regimes. Poland, Hungary, Romania one after the other. I don’t remember who first spoke about a “cold war” between us and the Soviet Union (now it’s Russia again), but the hostility was palpable. Hans was still working for the OSS, which had changed its name to the CIA. There were nights when he didn’t come home. The world had gone from Allied-Axis to Capitalists-Commies.
Then there was another shift, this one for the better. Mim was delighted when Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers that April. Good-bye, Negro Leagues. Hello, civil rights for all. Of course it wasn’t that easy. I wish it were. We had such a long way to go then. And now? Well, let me just say that Miriam Josefsohn Jacobowitz would not be satisfied by the state of things in 2013. Not by a long shot.
Mim and I celebrated Jackie’s feat with a barbecue. She invited the neighbors and some of Mim’s colleagues from the ACLU and the NAACP (which had a chapter in Northern California by then). We had hot dogs and hamburgers, and all the stuff you’d eat on the Fourth of July, only it was in April.
Mim’s whole family came, toddlers and all. Rachel and Henry had made up a parody to the chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and I still remember the words:
Jackie’s here in the ball game
Jackie’s team makes us proud
Let’s stop our Jim Crow and KKK
Don’t you dare say that Jackie can’t play!
So let’s root, root, root for the Dodgers
If they don’t win it’s a shame
For it’s one, two, three cheers for them
It’s a new ball game.
I’d never heard Rachel sing before, not really. She had quite a decent voice. And she and Henry were clearly proud of their song. Dagmar kept running around and hollering “root, root, root!” Already at two she looked like a miniature of her mother.
I know, I know. Enough about the barbecue. But it was such a fine day. One of the best. Mim was healthy and smiling. You know that expression: the world was full of promise.
The world did go a bit crazy on July 8, when the news broke from Roswell, New Mexico, that something had fallen from the skies and crashed into ranch around there. I saved this newspaper to show you. See what I mean?
We heard later that the military spokesman at the Roswell Army Airfield said that a flying disk was recovered, and then later said it was part of a weather balloon. We were having a birthday dinner for Mim that next SaturdayPaul and Caroline were away for some reasonand Sidney asked Henry if there could be life on other planets.
“Definitely,” Henry said. “Given the nature of the universe, the probability of the existence of extraterrestrials is high, but I doubt that they landed in Roswell this week.”
Rachel rubbed her hand along Henry’s back. “And if we don’t get our kids into bed soon, the probability of a productive day tomorrow is slim to nil.”
She gave her husband a look that was unmistakable. After seven years of marriage, Rachel was still as much in love with Henry as when they first ran off to Carmel together. I glanced at Mim, and she nodded. She touched Ephraim’s shoulder, and he automatically slipped his arm around her waist. Hans touched his pipe to his lips and raised his eyebrows, and I gave him an inviting smile. For that one moment, in the summer of 1947, the world felt glorious.